Category Archives: Nesting & Courtship

Peregrine Yo-Yos

Silver Girl calls to Morela, 31 May 2022, 3:38pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

1 June 2022

Yesterday was an eventful day at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest where, like a couple of yo-yos, two of the three chicks hopped into and out of the gully. As usual, food was the great motivator that brought them back to the nest.

Yellow Girl fell into the gully last Saturday so by yesterday she’d been down there three days eating scraps that fell from the nest. How was she doing? Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary panned the falconcam so we could see her. At 12:12pm she was in the keyhole with her tail showing.

At 12:26pm Red Boy decided to try the gully for himself and disappeared below where he hung out with Yellow Girl in the shade (see slideshow below).

The youngest, Silver Girl (whose blue tape came off of her silver band), stayed topside. She’s quite well fed so when Morela fussed with food at 3:39pm, Silver Girl didn’t go for it. Red Boy did! When he saw Morela toying with food he jumped back to the green perch and into the nest.

The enticement of food worked so well that Morela made sure to take her time at the 5:37pm feeding. She knew Yellow Girl was watching and it didn’t take long before the wanderer jumped to the green perch, flapped to the nest, snatched the food from Morela and Red Boy, and mantled while she ate. Yellow Girl was hungry!

That happened fast, didn’t it! Here it is in a stop-motion slideshow. (If the slideshow doesn’t advance swipe it right to left.)

This morning all three chicks are in the nest but two have already ledge walked and now have the confidence to explore.

Three chicks in the nest, 1 June 2022, 7:46am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Don’t be surprised when they go off camera.

We’ll see them at Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza June 4, 5 and 7. Meanwhile you can watch them on the National Aviary falconcam.

(photos and video from the National Aviary falconcam)

Careful There… Whoops!

Yellow Girl flaps and runs to the green perch, 28 May 2022, 12:54pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

29 May 2022

It happens every few years. At 28-35 days old, one of the Pitt peregrine chicks stumbles off the nest into the gully below and disappears from camera view.  People are worried. The chick is fine.

Yesterday at 12:55pm Yellow Girl was so excited to hop on the green perch that she flapped and ran from the back of the box. She made it! But she was wobbly. (yellow tape on band at right)

Yellow Girl on the green perch (at right), 28 May 2022, 12:55pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Made Univ of Pittsburgh)

Rather than pause to get her bearings she flapped some more. It didn’t help. Her right foot slipped and then her left. She grabbed with her talons … and slid off to the gully.

Yellow Girl’s right foot begins to slip off the perch, 28 May 2022, 12:55pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The video clip below shows the entire episode. One of the adults — probably Morela — was babysitting at the time and saw the problem unfolding. She whined and flew over the nest (shadow passes over). Adult peregrine whining means “I want [something] to be different.” Maybe that [something] was “Don’t do that! Be careful!”

Yellow Girl was still excited, though. She hissy-whined (begging for food), flapped and … Whoops!

The other two chicks ran to the back wall. Off camera we can hear Yellow Girl hissy-whining from below and Morela answering from above.

As in prior years the chick down under will resurface eventually. Sometimes the parents use food to entice the youngster to climb up. Sometimes they feed the chick down below. In any case, Yellow Girl will come topside before she flies.

For a diagram of the area below the nest and a video of a chick returning, check out this vintage article. It’s worth seeing the look on his siblings’ faces when the down-under chick reappears!

p.s. The blue tape on the second female’s band came off in the first day so her band is plain silver. So their nicknames are: Red Boy, Yellow Girl, Silver Girl

(photos and video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

First Step Off the Nest

Red Boy on the green perch, 26 May 2022, 12:59pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

28 May 2022

Two hours after the Pitt peregrine chicks were banded on 26 May, the young male made his first step off the gravel. Of the three chicks (2 females, 1 male) the male has the most advanced feather development so I’m not surprised he made his big move so soon.

Peregrine chicks are hard wired not to leave the nest until they have flight feathers — a step off the cliff at that stage would mean certain death. But by the time they look mostly brown, their flight feathers are nearly ready and they need space to exercise their wings so they embark on the next step: Ledge walking. The first ledge walk at the Cathedral of Leaning is always on the green perch.

In the slideshow below the brown-ist chick contemplates a jump to the green perch at 12:12pm. When he makes it topside we can see he has red tape on his silver band, so this is the male (thus nicknamed “Red Boy”). He lingered on the perch for more than 45 minutes until his mother brought lunch at 12:59.

In the video below he looks a bit unsteady because it’s the first time he has ever perched. He works on his balance and grip, preens and exercises his wings.

Red Boy is ahead of his sisters and may walk off camera later this weekend. Watch for his progress on the National Aviary falconcam.

Stay tuned for Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza, an opportunity to see the chicks as they prepare to fly. This weekend I’ll announce dates between June 3-8.

Three Peregine Chicks Banded at Pitt on 26 May

Banding Day 2022 at the Cathedral of Learning: the male chick receives his bands (photo by Kate St. John)

26 May 2022

This morning one male and two female peregrine chicks were banded at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning by Patti Barber, Endangered Bird Biologist from the PA Game Commission (PGC).

This spring is the second year Morela and Ecco have nested at Pitt and the first time their chicks have been banded. Morela had no chicks in 2020 (males Terzo and Ecco could not settle on which of them was her mate), and in 2021 PGC conducted no/few peregrine bandings.

Morela and Ecco are unbanded, so this was a first time experience for them. Morela shouted from above the nest as Patti Barber collected her chicks.

Morela shouts as Patti Barber collect the chicks from the nest below (photo by Kate St. John)

Indoors, the chicks were given health checks (they are very healthy!), weighed to determine their sex (one male, two females) and given two leg bands: a black/green color band that can be read through binoculars and a silver USFW band.

Patti placed a bit of colored tape on each USFW silver band which will be visible on the falconcam and in photos: Red for the male chick, Yellow and Blue for the female chicks.

In less than 40 minutes the chicks were back at the nest and soon their lives returned to normal.

Next Tuesday 31 May the PA Game Commission, the National Aviary and Pitt will issue press releases about the banding. Stay tuned for my followup article that will be loaded with photos, media links, and perhaps a video.

Meanwhile watch the peregrine chicks at the National Aviary falconcam. They’ll start walking off the nest around 1 June.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Yesterday at Schenley Park: Nestlings and Blackpolls

Blackpoll warbler, Schenley Park, 22 May 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

23 May 2022

Six of us gathered at Schenley Park yesterday morning in perfect weather for a bird and nature walk. (The sixth is taking the picture.)

Great weather for an outing in Schenley Park, 22 May 2022 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

First on the agenda was a look through my scope at the Pitt peregrines. Though we were half a mile from the Cathedral of Learning we could see one adult babysitting and two fluffy heads looking out the front of the nestbox. This is where the chicks were standing as we watched.

3 peregrine chicks at the Cathedral of Learning, 26 days old, 22 May 2022

Inside the park, a pair of red-tailed hawks is raising three chicks about the same age as the peregrines. We paused on our walk to watch them eat. Best views are from here.

Scroll through Charity Kheshgi’s Instagram photos to see our Best Birds including the blackpoll warbler pictured above.

In all we saw 25 species (https://ebird.org/checklist/S111010535). Not a high count but well worth the trip.

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis): Saw 4, maybe 5: 1 or 2 adults + 3 young in nest.
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  3
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  Saw 4: 1 adult via scope + 3 young in nest via falconcam.
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  1
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  5
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  4
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  5    2 pairs
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  4
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  18
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  5
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)  2
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  4
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  1
Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)  2    Seen!
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)  1

p.s. Charity’s photo of the rose-breasted grosbeak was taken after the walk.

(photos by Charity Kheshgi)

Watch These Peregrines in the Next 3 Weeks

Morela feeds 3 chicks at the Cathedral of Learning, 21 May 2022 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

21 May 2022

Of the eleven peregrine sites we’re monitoring in Southwestern PA, we know the adults are bringing food to four nests and we’ve already seen chicks at three of them.

Look for the chicks at all four nests to begin to fly in the next three weeks.

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh:

3 chicks beg from a parent above them at the Cathedral of Learning, 21 May 2022 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

As of today the chicks are 26 days old and very active. On Thursday they started to grab food from Morela and take it away to eat, so yesterday Ecco brought prey for them to prepare and eat on their own. They couldn’t figure out what to do with it.

In this Day-in-a-Minute video you can see the prey item in the middle of the nestbox for a while. It’s a yellow-billed cuckoo. Morela fed it to them eventually.

I expect the Pitt nestlings to be on camera through the end of May, then walk off the nest in early June (off camera) and make their first flight a few days later. Watch the Cathedral of Learning nest on the National Aviary falconcam to see if I’m right.

Stay tuned for Fledge Watch fun in early June. Schedule to follow soon.

Eckert Street / McKees Rocks Bridge area, Ohio River:

Male peregrine at Eckert Street, 10 May 2022 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

When Jeff Cieslak last checked on the Eckert Street peregrines on 10 May, the male was bringing food to nest. Jeff’s been out of town since then so … though we know there are chicks in the nest no one has seen them yet. Stop by Eckert Street and see what’s up.

Westinghouse Bridge, Turtle Creek:

Peregrine chick peaks from nest at Westinghouse Bridge, 20 May 2022 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

On 20 May Dana Nesiti saw a chick at the edge of the nest ledge. This one may be the same age as the Pitt peregrine chicks. Watch for them to fly in early June.

Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny River:

View of Tarentum Bridge nestbox area, June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)

The 3 young peregrines at the Tarentum Bridge are a week older than the Pitt nestlings and will fly before the end of May. Stop by soon if you want to see them! More information here.

(photos by National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh, Jeff Cieslak, Dana Nesiti)

Tarentum Peregrines: See Them Before End of May

Tarentum peregrines in nest box, 19 May 2022 (photo by Dave Brooke)

20 May 2022

Thanks to Dave Brooke’s observations and photos we know there are three peregrine falcon chicks at the Tarentum Bridge nestbox and they probably hatched on 18 April 2022. Go see them soon! They will fly before the end of May.

In yesterday’s photo, above, they are 30 days old. In the 11 May photo below they are 23 days.

Tarentum peregrines in nest box, 11 May 2022 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Based on their age, we expect them to walk out of the box onto the pier this weekend. If any are male they’ll make their first flight as early as a week from today, Friday 27 May. Females tend to fledge four days later, maybe as early as Tuesday 31 May.

If you’ve been putting off a visit don’t wait any longer. The next 10 days will be the best time to see the peregrines. Visit the Tarentum boat launch or the sidewalk on 1st Avenue for the best view. Click here for a map.

See into the nestbox, circled below, by standing on 1st Avenue.

Tarentum Bridge shoing peregrine nestbox, 14 May 2018 (photo by John English)
Tarentum Bridge showing peregrine nestbox, 14 May 2018 (photo by John English)

See them on the pier from the Tarentum Boat Launch.

PennDOT bucket approaches the nest hole, 22 May 2014 (photo by Mike Fialkovich)
View from the Tarentum Boat Launch, 22 May 2014 (photo by Mike Fialkovich)

Don’t delay! Here’s the map.

(photos by Dave Brooke and John English)

Downtown Peregrines Embroiled in Peyton Place

Dori near the Third Ave nest, 24 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

15 May 2022

This year Dori, the resident female peregrine in Downtown Pittsburgh, is 16 years old — quite elderly for a wild peregrine falcon. Nonetheless, on 17 April I confirmed incubation at her nest when I spotted a peregrine inside the Third Avenue nest site.

Peregrine incubating at Third Avenue nest, Downtown Pittsburgh, 17 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

A week later I confirmed that this bird is Dori when I found her perched on Third Avenue on 24 April and read her bands through my scope (Black/green M/93). Unfortunately she obscured half the numbers just before I snapped this photo.

Dori revealed her bands but not in this photo, 24 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Why was Dori off the nest? Was Terzo incubating while I was there (unseen in the nest)? Or was Terzo not helping at all, similar to his behavior with Morela in 2020?

I got a hint when Steve Mortimer emailed me on 26 April.

Yesterday [25 April 2022], at about noon, I had the windows open. I live in the former Alcoa building in the corner closest to the William Penn Hotel. I kept hearing a bird chirping. It seemed right outside my window. After scanning for a bit I noticed the peregrine on the box gutter of the William Penn Hotel. That wasn’t the caliber of bird I expected from that noise. … This happened over and over again until around 5:30 PM when I spotted a new falcon. Perched higher up on the building. Smaller, sleeker, much more elegant looking. … My noisy neighbor continued in her spot. … She was still there when it was very dark and there was just enough light to barely make her out. I could hear her in the morning through the windows … she took off around 9:30 AM. Moments later I noticed a bird soaring around in the distance. Then two. Then one again. Then none. She hasn’t returned since.

— email from Steve Mortimer, 26 April 2022

The unbanded female Steve photographed is bowing to another peregrine. Who?

Unbanded female peregrine chirps and bows on ledge of Omni William Penn Hotel, 25 April 2022 (pht)

Steve did not see a second peregrine (male) until much later and only from a distance, labeled “Newcomer” in his diagram.

Noisy peregrine and (male) “Newcomer” locations on 25 April 2022 (photo and diagram by Steve Mortimer)

Two weeks passed with no news.

Then on 11 May, Amanda Linn tweeted (@amandolin_) about two peregrines outside her window at BNY Mellon. An unbanded female …

New unbanded female perched at BNY Mellon, Downtown Pittsburgh, 11 May 2022 (photo by Amanda Linn)

… and a banded male. He’s Terzo, the resident male in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Terzo perched at BNY Mellon, 11 May 2022 (photo by Amanda Linn)

Here’s a closeup of his bands.

Just like humans, peregrines can see when another of their species is not in tiptop shape. Both Terzo and the unbanded female know that Dori is elderly and, as we know from Dorothy at Pitt in 2015, elderly female peregrines can lay eggs but few are viable and any chicks that hatch have disabilities.

Terzo seems to have changed loyalties. The new female is waiting in the wings. The Downtown peregrines are embroiled in Peyton Place.

(photos by Kate St. John, Steve Mortimer and Amanda Linn @amandolin_)

Weak Fourth Chick is Gone

Wet Morela feeds 3 chicks, 6 May 2022, 4:24pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

7 May 2022

Pittsburgh is in the throes of heavy rain(*) and it is still raining this morning. Since food was hard to find in yesterday’s steady downpour, the Pitt peregrine chicks did not eat often and there were fewer opportunities to count heads and look for the weak fourth chick. However, every time the family moved it was clear the fourth chick was gone.

The last time he participated in a feeding was the day before, on 5 May. He was fed standing up at 8:21am but collapsed minutes later. Morela fed him on his back.

Morela feeds weak 4th chick on his back, 5 May 2022, 8:33am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The fourth chick was absent from subsequent feedings until his lifeless body was seen on the gravel behind his siblings at 3:04pm (below).

4th chick expired at back of huddle, 5 May 2022, 3:04pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

By yesterday morning he was gone. Perhaps one of the adults removed his body overnight. He does not appear on camera on 6 May 2002. See the time lapse video below.

Meanwhile the remaining chicks are thriving and, at 11 days old, have grown their second down and started their wing and tail feathers. Tomorrow their ears will be distinct.

Watch them grow at the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh.

(*) By Saturday morning 7 May 2022, Pittsburgh had reached record rainfall for the month-to-date of 2.87 inches.

(photos and video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Fourth Chick Very Weak

  • 6:30 Morela feeds 4th chick

4 May 2022

Yesterday the tiny fourth chick appeared to be very weak and unlikely to survive. Morela and Ecco are aware of it and are doing the best they can.

As you can see in the slides above, labeled with feeding times on 3 May, Morela attempts to feed the chick even when it is on its back. Ecco looks for the chick every time he visits the nest.

Perhaps the two of them were communicating about this at 10:15am when Morela wailed at Ecco. In the video below, Ecco comes to the nest and looks for the fourth chick, then Morela arrives and wails.

This is the first time this pair has had a weak chick.

p.s. Thank you to Mary Ann Pike for alerting me to the 10:15 wailing session.

(photos and video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)